GAO: State/OBO produced no long-range facilities plans after 2008

Posted: 12:02 am EDT
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According to State policy, OBO’s Office of Master Planning and Evaluations (MPE) is responsible for directing and preparing both master plans and long-range facilities plans for posts abroad, not PDC, which is OBO’s project coordination and management office. However, MPE has not been involved in PDC’s on-compound master plan update or State’s stakeholder meetings on embassy development.58

From April 1990 through December 2013, OBO had a policy and procedures directive that required strategic facility planning (termed long- range facilities plans) for posts meeting certain criteria.59 These long- range facilities plans were to provide a comprehensive overview of the post’s facility requirements, establish optimum use of existing assets, examine alternatives for meeting post needs, be tailored to the specific context of the post, be subject to periodic revisions, and provide direct input into the programming and budgeting of the post for the next 5 to 10 years. State documentation shows that between 2004 and 2008, OBO prepared 16 long-range facilities plans (strategic facility plans) for selected posts with challenging real property issues. In 2008, OBO’s then director also reported to State’s Undersecretary for Management that long-range facilities plans were essential precursors to the development of individual projects. However, OBO produced no long-range facilities plans after 2008.60

In December 2013, OBO rescinded its long-range facilities plans policy and procedures directive based on an explanation that the office responsible for that function no longer existed and that the function had been replaced by master planning.61 However, the action did not indicate what master planning entailed within OBO, nor did it explain and justify how master planning could substitute for strategic facilities planning. According to OBO officials, master planning is defined and conducted via stakeholder meetings and generally accepted practices within the organization. However, OBO was unable to provide any current policy governing either post strategic facilities planning or site master planning. A senior OBO official acknowledged that MPE had generally not conducted strategic facilities planning in the past few years. Without policies that clearly define strategic facilities planning and master planning, as well as outline the content and methods to conduct such planning, it will be difficult for OBO to fulfill these responsibilities.
While past OBO policy recognized the value of such strategic planning, it was rescinded in December 2013. No formal policy on its stated substitute—master planning—was established, even though State continues to assign responsibility for both strategic facilities planning and master planning to OBO. By establishing policies that clearly define strategic facilities planning and master planning, as well as explain the content and methods to conduct such planning, OBO can better ensure the usefulness of any such efforts undertaken in Kabul or in other posts abroad.

Read in full here (pdf).